PwC Nigeria recently held a roundtable discussion for CEOs to discuss the barriers to and opportunities for business development in Nigeria. The roundtable was a spinoff of its 14th Annual Global CEO survey, which highlighted prospects in emerging markets as the key driver of CEO confidence in 2010. While the conversation was generally optimistic due to ongoing regulation development in the government, and of course the ever-present Nigerian market, which at 150 million people is nothing to sneeze at, a major concern did arise: a lack of talent.
Don’t read this wrong. This is not a lack of people. Nigeria is a youthful country and 40% of people between the ages of 20 – 24 are unemployed. This is a lack of talent. And the problem is the education system.
While the United Nations recommends that 26% of the national budget be allocated to education, in Nigeria, the percentage couldn’t be further from that target. Presently, a mere 6.4% of the Nigerian federal budget is allocated to education. The lack of investment spells disaster for Nigerian youth looking for employment and already hampered by a limited job market..
As one participant commented during the CEO roundtable: “Ten years ago I could hire someone in their mid-40s as a senior project manager. They’d benefitted from the old Nigerian commitment to education. These days I struggle to employ someone of the same age as a junior technician. And forget about hiring the youth. The talent is not there.”
With the government failing in its responsibility to invest in education the private sector is stepping up to the challenge. Furniture manufacturers are training welders; large-scale agriculturalists are training tractor drivers. We at C&F Porter Novelli are training writers and those in communications.
Where we can’t find talent, we have opted to create it. Just this February we welcomed the very first partner of our new trainees for the PR Fundamentals program. Our mission is to train talent and where we can’t retain it directly, we give back to the industry to contribute to the development of Public Relations in Nigeria.
Our total number of interns is four. It may be a small drop in the bucket of employment and talent development, but it is our first step and one that many companies across diverse industries are choosing to take.
This is the short term – companies working in silos to make sure they have talent. In the medium term, the CEO roundtable suggested ideas of collaboration across companies in the same industry, across industries even, to support the growth of the talent pool. In the long term, eyes are on advocacy and ultimately change. The federal government will have to step in eventually and reclaim its responsibility. But for now the companies will continue, as we have, to identify potential and transform it into talent. After all, we’re operating in the most populous country in Africa. There is business to be done here and we will make sure it continues to grow.